No-Limit Cash Games: Playing Monsters

Poker isn't just about getting good cards; it's also about how you play those cards. Just because you've picked up a monster hand, doesn't mean you should abandon all strategy knowing you're going to win anyway. How you play your hand can make the difference between taking down a big pot or getting slim winnings for your good cards.

There are many different philosophies on playing made hands. Some say slow play, others say bet out. In my opinion, there is really no set way that you should play a made hand; it all depends on the situation. What you want to keep in mind is that your goal is to get your opponent pot-committed. That way, you'll have the best chance of getting his all-in by the river and taking down a huge pot with your monster hand.

When to Slow Play

The best time to slow play your monster hand is when you're up against an aggressive opponent who has an early position. There's nothing better than flopping a set on a raise and having him bet into you over and over - "feeding the monster" as we like to call it.

The only time I slow play a made hand is when I hit big against an aggressive opponent who likes to steal pots. If I figure he's made a top pair on the flop, I'll re-raise him on the turn to get him pot-committed before I put him all-in on the river.

The turn is the best time to get someone pot-committed. If he's betting into you, just double or triple his bet on the turn and he'll follow you all-in on the river.

When to Bet

Betting into solid players is a favorite of mine because it immediately lets me know if they have a hand or not. If they call my bet, I know they hit top pair on the flop and I'll be able to pot-commit them by the river.

As with slow playing, the turn is where you want to pot-commit your opponent and set him up for an all-in at the river. The only time you want to all-in the turn is if there's a draw that can beat you and you've got a lot of chips in the pot.

For example, here's how I usually bet when I've flopped a set. Say my opponent and I are both sitting with $600, and I call a raise of $30 pre-flop with 5c-5h. The flop comes Kd-5s-2h rainbow. I'm first to act so I bet $48 and he calls which means he's most likely holding A-K or something with a king pre-flop.

Now it's time to pot-commit him. On the turn, if I check, he bets and I re-raise, he may fold. Instead of scaring him off like that, I bet out $120 on the turn, and if he re-raises, then I can go all-in with him. If he just calls, I can get him all-in at the river.

This is the beauty of pot-committing opponents.

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